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It’s not easy to help a friend who is struggling with an addiction. You may have noticed signs for a long time and never felt comfortable saying something. Even trying to initiate a conversation about it can be an uphill battle against denial and resentment. It’s understandable and normal to be wary about mentioning the changes you’ve noticed in the behavior of a friend or loved one. Uncomfortable though it may be, the longer you wait, the harder it will be to help the person you love. Here are some ways to help your friend start saving themselves. The right support from you has the power to change their life forever.
Educate Yourself on Addiction
Addiction often causes people to display a wide range of odd or unfamiliar symptoms. Their behavior, appearance, and social interactions can serve as indicators that something is off. Each person will show symptoms differently, so it’s important to do your research to understand what they’re going through internally.
Substance abuse and mental health disorders share a complex, intertwined relationship. Certain drugs can cause people who abuse them to experience symptoms of mental health problems. This can also go the other way around, as numerous mental health issues can lead to alcohol or drug use. A significant number of people with mental health issues will misuse the substances subscribed by their doctor. Changes in brain composition, genetic vulnerabilities, and early exposure to trauma can have the same underlying causes as substance abuse. You can start navigating the seemingly-endless possibilities by looking for symptoms that indicate a mental or behavioral problem.
Behavioral Signs to Look For:
- Mood swings
- Irritability and agitation
- Lack of motivation
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Loss of interest in school, work, or hobbies
- Poor performance in school or at work
- Self-isolation and withdrawal
- Lack of concern for appearance and hygiene
Physical Signs to Look For:
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- Sleeping problems
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excessive sweating
- Bloodshot eyes
- Pupils that are smaller or larger than normal
- Bloody or runny nose
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
Social Symptoms to Look For:
- Legal issues
- Financial difficulties
- Socializing with others who use drugs or alcohol
- Drug paraphernalia (spoons, syringes, pipes)
Providing Support and Encouragement
When a person is battling addiction, they may not always understand how much the people in their life care about them. Speak with them about the concerns you have about their mental and physical health. You must not wait until they are at their worst to reach out and talk to them. Do your best to let them know that you support them throughout their journey, sincerely and often.
Like other diseases, addiction is best combated with professional medical attention. Despite this, it’s still common for people who attempt to persuade their friends to get help to receive pushback in the form of denial or excuses. Your friend may come up with a million reasons as to why they shouldn’t seek treatment. This is exactly why you should be persistent about how important it is that they get help as soon as possible.
If you are unsuccessful on your own, you might need to have an official intervention for your friend. Setting up an intervention won’t be easy; consider contacting an intervention specialist who can help you strategize. Once you all get over the hump and your friend agrees to enter treatment, make sure to remain involved in their journey. You can participate in meetings, attend recovery support groups, and do your best to continue serving as a resource for your friend.
Take Care of Yourself
When you care about someone, it can become easier to go out of your way to help them. This still doesn’t mean that you should neglect yourself by any means. Remember to set boundaries and continue to practice self-care as you help your loved one battle addiction. The healthier you are, the more able you will be to help. If you eat the right foods, exercise, practice breathing exercises, and care for your own mental health, you will be better equipped for the tough conversations ahead.
What Not to Do
Even with the best intentions, it can be infinitely more difficult to approach your friend if you don’t have a complete understanding of what they’re going through. The last thing you want to do is push them away. For them to listen to your advice, they must trust you. Approaching them with a preachy or lecturing tone could immediately turn them away. Making them feel guilty won’t encourage them to want to get help; instead, let them know that you just want to see them healthy. While it’s normal to be in denial yourself about the severity of your friend’s addiction, it’s in their best interest if you don’t lie for them or to them at any point.
Attempting to help a friend who’s battling an addiction can be a difficult process. With patience and understanding, you may be able to make a difference in the life of somebody close to you. Don’t let potential symptoms of substance abuse or mental illness go unnoticed; if you notice signs that your loved one struggles with an addiction, do not be afraid to reach out and help them. In the process of helping that friend or loved one, make sure to take care of your mental health as well. If recovery seems like a daunting path to go down, remember that you don’t have to go through this alone. At Kimberly Center in Fort Myers, Florida, our mission is to help you and your loved one weather the storm of addiction. We offer a wide range of effective long-term and short-term treatments that can help the person you love turn their life around. Contact Kimberly Center at (855) 452-3683 to learn more.